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Rating: *** DIET COKE'S REFRESHMENT PACKED IN SWIMMING TRUNKS

By Published on .

The spot opens with an underwater camera, panning left from the tendrils of some marine plant to an enormous, shadowy figure swimming awkwardly toward the lens. Is it an octopus? Is it a manatee? Is it Aunt Bernice?

Oh, dear me, it's an elephant.

A swimming elephant. And there's music playing.

Is it love? Yes my dear,

Is it love that draws me near?

Is it love that brings me back into your heart?

This original tune, made to sound like a '30s standard, seems to refer to a peculiar love affair indeed. The elephant is swimming through a lagoon toward a brightly colored raft, where a slim and beautiful woman is drinking Diet Coke from the new contour bottle. The lady, who has an ice bucket full of Diet Cokes on her raft, returns to her paperback, oblivious to the approaching company.

Our moments come through magic

As we drift on sea so blue.

We stare into each other's eyes

As lovers often do.

Just as the viewer is putting the lyrics together with the action, and hoping there is no literal connection intended, it becomes obvious the floating sun goddess is neither the subject of the elephant's affections, nor the reason for the 200-meter pachyderm crawl.

What he's after is the soda pop. Reaching with his prehensile trunk, he pilfers one from the ice bucket, leaving on the raft in exchange four damp peanuts.

As the elephant swims away, a male voice-over says, "The irresistible taste of Diet Coke," and a super provides the perfunctory tagline: "The taste of refreshment."

But refreshment, at least the liquid variety, has little to do with this exercise. All over the world, the people who will watch these 30 seconds transfixed will not be moved to utter, "Golly that looks like a refreshing taste treat in a nostalgic new package!" Rather they will say, "I didn't know elephants can swim."

Indeed, standing alone, this spot from Fallon McElligott, Minneapolis, would be open to criticism about gratuitous entertainment value, because whatever does a Jumbo doggy paddle have to with low calorie soft drinks? But this ad doesn't stand alone. It comes on the heels of Lowe & Partners/SMS' Diet Coke break, which featured female office workers slavering over a hunky construction worker. It also follows a whimsical pull-back-to-reveal spot with two young women lounging on a parking lot "beach" to the tune of Bobby Darin's "Somewhere Beyond the Sea."

Neither of them was particularly product centered either, but their significance is emerging. It seems the strategy is to capture the attention and imagination of women viewers, that they might convert delight with the brand's commercial personality into delight with the brand itself.

The refreshment is in the advertising, in other words. And it could work. This is exactly what Diet Pepsi did with Michael J. Fox's heroic antics in pursuit of cola refreshment. The Diet Coke work may even be better, skewed as it is toward the women who constitute the principal consumer base.

Certainly the phrase "Diet Coke break" has entered the lexicon, conjuring images of that shirtless Lucky fella whom women seem to find somewhat attractive.

So why not a swimming elephant?

The next in the series will probably involve large, hard-sided luggage lying open on a steamship deck. These Diet Coke spots, after all, do seem preoccupied with exposed trunks.

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